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Preliminary DWI screening is separate from chemical testing

On Behalf of | Dec 29, 2023 | DWI

If a Minnesota police officer suspects you of intoxication while driving, he or she might make a traffic stop. To make a lawful arrest, the officer must first establish probable cause. This means that he or she must establish evidence to substantiate the claim that you were an intoxicated driver. To establish probable cause, a police officer may use a preliminary DWI screening test.

A preliminary DWI test might include a breath test administered on the roadside to determine if there is alcohol on your breath. Such testing might also include one or more field sobriety tests. During such tests, an officer analyzes your ability to follow simple instructions and perform a series of tasks. Preliminary DWI screening tests are different from chemical tests administered after an arrest has taken place.

Preliminary DWI screening tests are not obligatory

Although a Minnesota police officer has pulled you over, he or she is not necessarily arresting you or charging you with a crime. Implied consent rules are applicable after an arrest, not before. This means you can refuse a preliminary alcohol screening test without penalty.

A police officer cannot arrest you for refusing nor can you lose your driving privileges. What police can and often will do is mention the fact that you refused preliminary screening. This might influence the decision if you wind up facing drunk driving charges in court.

A chemical Breathalyzer uses a mathematical formula to determine BAC

With a Breathalyzer test, investigators can determine the actual amount of alcohol in your bloodstream at a specific time. The device used during traffic stops or sobriety checkpoints, on the other hand, simply detects the presence of alcohol on your breath. This makes such devices unreliable because there are numerous things that can trigger a false positive.

Failing a preliminary screening establishes probable cause

If you register positive for alcohol on a preliminary breath test device, the officer who administered the test then has probable cause to arrest you for suspected DWI. Based on the information provided in the previous section, it is possible to face DWI charges even if you were sober when you took a roadside breath test.

Things to remember regarding preliminary and post-arrest testing

Keep these things in mind when deciding whether to comply with requests to take breath tests:

  • You’re not obligated to take preliminary screening tests, and there are no penalties for refusing.
  • Implied consent laws make post-arrest Breathalyzers obligatory; refusal incurs a license suspension.
  • Any time a Minnesota police officer detains you, you can request legal support.

If you face DWI charges in this or any other state, you can defend your rights in court. In many cases, it is possible to achieve a positive outcome, especially if you seek experienced guidance before heading to court.